The Old Charges


THE OLD CHARGES of FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS
MASONRY FORUM STUDY GROUP -- Session # 5


THE GENERAL HEADS, 

Viz.:
I -   Of God and Religion. 
II -  Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate. 
III - Of Lodges. 
IV -  Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows, and Apprentices. 
V -   Of the Management of the Craft in working. 
VI -  Of Behaviour, viz.
   1 -  In the Lodge while constituted.
   2 -  After the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.
   3 -  When Brethren meet without Strangers, but not in a 
	   Lodge.
   4 -  In Presence of Strangers not Masons.
   5 -  At Home, and in the Neighbourhood.
   6 -  Towards a strange Brother.


Compiled by the Author in their Old Records, by order of
the Grand Master, the present Duke of Montagu. Approved by
the Grand Lodge and printed by order in the first Edition
of the Book of Constitutions, on the 25 March 1722.


I- CONCERNING GOD AN RELIGION.

A Mason is oblig'd, by this Tenure, to obey the moral Law;
and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a
stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. But though
in ancient Times Masons were charg'd in every Country to
be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it
was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige
them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving
their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be
good Men an true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by
whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be
distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of
Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among
Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.


II- OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE SUPREME AND SUBORDINATE.

A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers,
wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern'd
in Plots an Conspiracies against the Peace an Welfare of
the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior
Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by
War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and
Princes have been much dispos'd to encourage the
Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty,
whereby they practically answer'd the Cavils of their
Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity,
who ever flourish'd in Times of Peace. So that if a
Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to
be countenanc'd in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied
as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime,
though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his
Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political
Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot
expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains
indefeasible.


III- OF LODGES.

A Lodge is a Place where Masons assemble and work: Hence
that Assembly, or duly organiz'd Society of Masons, is
call'd a Lodge, and every Brother ought to belong to one,
and to be subject to its By-Laws and the General
Regulations. It is either particular or general, and will
be best understood by attending it, and by the Regulations
of the General or Grand Lodge hereunto annex'd. In ancient
Times, no Master or Fellow could be absent from it,
especially when warn'd to appear at it, without incurring
a severe Censure, until it appear'd to the Master and
Wardens, that pure Necessity hinder'd him. The Persons
admitted Members of a Lodge must be good and true Men,
free-born, and of mature and discreet Age, no Bondmen, no
Women, no immoral or scandalous Men, but of good Report.


IV- OF MASTERS, WARDENS, FELLOWS, AND APPRENTICES.

All Preferment among Masons is grounded upon real Worth
and personal Merit only; that so the Lords may be well
served, the Brethren not put to Shame, nor the Royal Craft
despis'd: Therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by
seniority, but for his Merit. It is impossible to describe
these things in writing, and every Brother must attend in
his Place, and learn them in a way peculiar to this
Fraternity: Only Candidates may know, that no Master
should take an Apprentice, unless he has sufficient
Employment for him, and unless he be a perfect Youth,
having no Maim or Defect in his Body, that may render him
uncapable to learning the Art, of serving his Master's
Lord, and of being made a Brother, and then a Fellow-Craft
in due time, even after he has served such a term of Years
as the Custom of the Country directs; and that should be
descended of honest Parents ; that so, when otherwise
qualify'd, he may arrive to the Honour of being the
Warden, and then the Master of the Lodge, the Grand
Warden, and at length the Grand-Master of all the Lodges,
according to his Merit. No Brother can be a Warden until
he has pass'd the part of a Fellow-Craft; nor a Master
until he has acted as a Warden, nor Grand Warden until he
has been Master of a Lodge, nor Grand-Master unless he has
been a Fellow-Craft before his Election, who is also to be
nobly born, or a Gentleman of the best Fashion, or some
eminent Scholar, or some curious Architect, or other
Artist, descended of honest Parents, and who is of
singular great Merit in the Opinion of the Lodges. And for
the better, and easier, and more honourable Discharge of
his Office, the Grand-Master has a Power to chuse his own
Deputy Grand-Master, who must be then, or must have been
formerly, the Master of a particular Lodge, and has the
Privilege of acting whatever the Grand-Master, his
Principal, should act, unless the said Principal be
present, or interpose his Authority by a Letter. These
rules and Governors, Supreme and Subordinate, of the
ancient Lodge, are to be obey'd in their respective
Stations by all the Brethren, according to the old Charges
and Regulations, with all Humility, Reverence, Love, and
Alacrity.


V- OF THE MANAGEMENT OF THE CRAFT IN WORKING.

All Masons shall work honestly on working Days, that they
may live creditably on holy Days; and the time appointed
by the Law of the Land, or confirm'd by Custom, shall be
observ'd. The most expert of the fellow-Craftsmen shall be
chosen or appointed the Master, or Overseer of the Lord's
Work; who is to be call'd Master by those that work under
him. The Craftsmen are to avoid all ill Language, and to
call each other by no disobliging Name, but Brother or
Fellow; and to behave themselves courteously within and
without the Lodge. The Master, knowing himself to be able
of Cunning, shall undertake the Lord's Work as reasonably
as possible, and truly dispend his Goods as if they were
his own; nor to give more Wages to any Brother or
Apprentice than he really may deserve. Both the Master and
the Masons receiving their Wages justly, shall be faithful
to the Lord, and honestly finish their Work, whether Task
or Journey; nor put the Work to Task that hath been
accustom'd to Journey. None shall discover Envy at the
Prosperity of a Brother, nor supplant him, or put him out
of his Work, if he be capable to finish the same; for no
Man can finish another's Work so much to the Lord's
Profit, unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the
Designs and Draughts of him that began it. When a
Fellow-Craftman is chosen Warden of the Work under the
Master, he shall be true both to Master and Fellows, shall
carefully oversee the Work in the Master's Absence to the
Lord's Profit; and his Brethren shall obey him. All Masons
employ'd, shall meekly receive their Wages without
Murmuring or Mutiny, and not desert the Master till the
Work is finish'd. A younger Brother shall be instructed in
working, to prevent spoiling the Materials for want of
Judgment, and for encreasing and continuing of Brotherly
Love. All the Tools used in working shall be approved by
the Grand Lodge. No Labourer shall be employ'd in the
proper Work of Masonry; nor shall Free Masons work with
those that are not free, without an urgent Necessity; nor
shall they teach Labourers and unaccepted Masons, as they
should teach a Brother or Fellow.


VI- OF BEHAVIOUR, 

VIZ.

1. In the Lodge while constituted.

You are not to hold private Committees, or separate
Conversation, without Leave from the Master, nor to talk
of any thing impertinent or unseemly, nor interrupt the
Master or Wardens, or any Brother speaking to the Master:
Nor behave yourself ludicrously or jestingly while the
Lodge is engaged in what is serious and solemn; nor use
any unbecoming Language upon any Pretence whatsoever; but
to pay due Reverence to your Master, Wardens, and Fellows,
and put them to worship. If any Complaint be brought, the
Brother found guilty shall stand to the Award and
Determination of the Lodge, who are the proper and
competent Judges of all such Controversies, (unless you
carry it by Appeal to the Grand Lodge) and to whom they
ought to be referr'd, unless a Lord's Work be hinder'd the
mean while, in which Case a particular Reference may be
made; but you must never go to Law about what concern the
Masonry, without an absolute Necessity apparent to the
Lodge.

2. Behaviour after the Lodge is over and the Brethren not
gone.

You may enjoy yourselves with innocent Mirth, treating one
another according to Ability, but avoiding all Excess, or
forcing any Brother to eat or drink beyond his
Inclination, or hindering him from going when his
Occasions call him, or doing or saying any thing
offensive, or that may forbid an easy and free
Conversation; for that would blast our Harmony, and defeat
our laudable Purposes. Therefore no private Piques or
Quarrels must be brought within the Door of the Lodge, far
less any Quarrels about Religion, or Nations, or State
Policy, we being only, as Masons, of the Catholick
Religion above-mention'd; we are also of all Nations,
Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages, and resolv'd against all
politicks, as what never yet conduc'd to the Welfare of
the Lodge, nor ever will. This Charges has been always
strictly enjoin'd and observ'd; but especially ever since
the Reformation in Britain, or the Dissent and Secession
of these Nations from the Communion of Rome.

3. Behaviour when Brethren meet without Strangers, but not
in a Lodge form'd.

You are to salute one another in a courteous manner, as
you will be instructed, calling each other Brother, freely
giving mutual Instructions as shall be thought expedient,
without being overseen or overheard, and without
encroaching upon each other, or derogating from that
Respect which is due to any Brother, were he not a Mason:
For though all Masons are as Brethren upon the same Level,
yet Masonry takes no Honour to whom it is due, and avoid
ill Manners.

4. Behaviour in Presence of Strangers not Masons.

You shall be cautious in your Words and Carriage, the most
penetrating Stranger shall not be able to discover or find
out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you
shall divert a Discourse, and manage it prudently for the
Honour of the worshipful Fraternity.

5. Behaviour at Home, and in your Neighbourhood.

You are to act as becomes a moral and wise Man;
particularly, not to let your Family, Friends, and
Neighbours know the concerns of the Lodge, etc. but wisely
to consult your own Honour, and that of the ancient
Brotherhood, for Reasons not to be mention'd here. You
must also consult your Health, by not continuing together
too late, or too long from home, after Lodge Hours are
past; and by avoiding of Gluttony or Drunkenness, that
your Families be not neglected or injured, nor you
disabled from working.

6. Behaviour towards a Strange Brother.

You are cautiously to examine him, in such a Method as
Prudence shall direct you, that you may not be impos'd
upon by an ignorant false Pretender, whom you are to
reject with Contempt and Derision, and beware of giving
him any Hints of Knowledge. But if you discover him to be
a true and genuine Brother, you are to respect him
accordingly; and if he is in want, you must relieve him if
you can, or else direct him how he may be reliev'd: You
must employ him some Days, or else recommend him to be
employ'd. But you are not charged to do beyond your
Ability, only to prefer a poor Brother, that is a good Man
and true, before any other poor People in the same
Circumstances.

Finally, All these Charges you are to observe, and also
those that shall be communicated to you in another way;
cultivating BROTHERLY-LOVE, the Foundation and Cape-stone,
the Cement and Glory of this ancient Fraternity, avoiding
all Wrangling and Quarrelling, all Slander an Backbiting,
nor permitting others to slander any honest Brother, but
defending his Character, and doing him all good Offices,
as far as is consistent with your Honour and Safety, and
no farther. And if any of them do you Injury, you must
apply to your own or his Lodge; and from thence you may
appeal to the GRAND LODGE at the Quarterly Communication,
and from thence to the annual GRAND LODGE, as has been the
ancient laudable Conduct of our Fore-fathers in every
Nation; never taking a legal Course but when the Case
cannot be otherwise decided, and patiently listening to
the honest and friendly Advice of Master and Fellows, when
they would prevent your going to Law with Strangers, or
would excite you to put a speedy Period to all Law-Suits,
that so you may mind the Affair of MASONRY with the more
Alacrity and Success; but with respect to Brothers or
Fellows at Law, the Master and Brethren should kindly
offer their Mediation, which ought to be thankfully
submitted to by the contending Brethren; and if that
Submission is impracticable, the must however carry on
their Process, or Law-Suit, without Wrath an Rancor (not
in the common way) saying or doing nothing which may
hinder Brotherly Love, and good Offices to be renew'd and
continu'd; that all may see the benign Influence of
MASONRY, as all true Masons have done from the Beginning
of the World, and will do to the End of Time.

AMEN SO MOTE IT BE.


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For more information on the Masonry Forum Study Group
please contact Adrien Blaise [100607,1177].     (04/06/98)
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